Many might consider stringing popcorn around a tree old school now, but if you love classic holiday traditions, it’s every bit as timeless as stockings hanging by the fireplace, gingerbread houses, and Christmas movie marathons.
To get you in the spirit of the holidays, we’ll walk you through the history of popcorn garlands and share foolproof tips on how to string popcorn. Let’s dive right in:
Popcorn Garland History
The tradition of stringing popcorn goes back as early as 1842 in Williamsburg, Virginia, with American colonists decorating their Christmas trees using homemade ornaments. Popcorn was cheap and easy to make, so its popularity as a decoration made perfect sense.
But popcorn garlands really gained traction in the 20th century, thanks to German immigrants who dyed the popcorn different colors and strung fruit, nuts, and other treats along with it. Eventually, cranberries became the most popular addition because of their festive color and fairly long shelf life.
What You’ll Need for Your DIY Popcorn Garland
- Kernels: Yellow or white, it’s up to you. Any kernels will do.
- Oil of your choice (if you’re making stovetop popcorn)
- Strong thread or fishing line
- Optional embellishments like cranberries, dried fruit, or nuts
How to Make Popcorn Garland
Have all your materials ready? Then let’s get started:
Step 1: Pop Your Popcorn
PRO TIP: Don’t use microwave or ready-to-eat popcorn. If there’s butter in it, it will turn soggy and attract pests. Plain popcorn lasts longer.
Step 2: Measure and Cut the Thread
Cut a long piece of thread or fishing line. The length will depend on factors like the size of your tree and spacing between kernels, but generally, you’ll need about 6 to 9 feet of thread to wrap around a tree.
If the thread ends up being too short, that’s okay. You can always tie more later on to extend the garland.
Step 3: Thread the Needle
Make a large knot at one end of the thread to stop the popcorn from slipping off. Pull the other end through the eye of your needle.
Step 4: String Popcorn (and Other Embellishments)
Pierce the center of a popcorn kernel with the needle and slowly bring it down till it’s near the knot you tied. Repeat until you have enough kernels. Be gentle to prevent breaking the popcorn.
This is also the time to add cranberries, nuts, or dried fruit to the garland. You can put these in between the kernels for a more decorative touch.
PRO TIP: If you use fresh cranberries, they’ll only be good for a day or two. Use the dried kind instead or spray Shellac to preserve your popcorn and cranberry garland longer.
Step 5: Secure the Garland
Once you’re happy with your popcorn garland’s length, tie a knot to keep everything in place.
Step 6: Snip Excess Thread
Trim any extra thread with your scissors, but leave enough so you can hang the garland.
Step 7: Display Your Popcorn Garland
Now you can string the DIY popcorn garland around your tree! Great job.
More DIY Popcorn Garland Tips
- Don’t use a lot of oil to pop the popcorn. When you use too much, the kernels will turn soggy and won’t last as long.
- If you’re not going to hang your popcorn garlands right away, store them in an airtight container to keep them away from pests and moisture.
- Don’t worry if you break some kernels along the way. Think of it like this — you get an excuse to snack while you work.
- You can spray Shellac or acrylic sealant over the garland to make it last longer. For best results, spray a thick, even coating and wait 12 hours for it to dry. You want to avoid Shellac, though, if you have little kids who might eat the popcorn or if you plan to hang it outdoors (you could accidentally harm some wildlife).
- This project is best done when you’re not in a rush. It’s the perfect way to keep your hands busy while enjoying a cup of coffee, catching up on a new series, or listening to your holiday playlist.
- You don’t have to limit your popcorn garland to the Christmas tree! You can also string popcorn around wreaths, drape it over the mantelpiece, or use it to make your doorway more festive.
- Making popcorn garlands with your kids? Use plastic needles for their safety and if they’re younger than four years old, make sure they don’t put any kernels in their mouths!
- Last but not least, remember that you call the shots. You can color the popcorn, string other ornaments, and be as creative with the garland as you want.
‘Tis the Season for a Reason
Decorating your tree with a popcorn garland is a great way to ring in the festive season, especially when you make it together with your loved ones. While some kernels might get broken as you string popcorn and the process can be time-consuming, it’s an experience worth repeating every year.
FAQs About Popcorn Garlands
What is the point of a popcorn garland?
You can trace the practice of stringing popcorn around a Christmas tree back to the 19th and 20th centuries when homemade ornaments took center stage. During that time, popcorn was a popular choice of decor because of its price and accessibility.
Economic reasons aside, people also string popcorn garlands outside to let squirrels and birds have a festive treat.
How long does a popcorn garland last?
A DIY popcorn garland can last a few weeks. You can spray it with Shellac or any acrylic sealant to extend its lifespan some more.
Does a popcorn garland attract bugs?
Yep, it can attract bugs and other wildlife. Keep this in mind if you plan to string popcorn around that wreath hanging outside your door.